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Report uncovers several areas that urgently need addressing in the investigations of rape and other sexual offences

Findings from Operation Soteria Bluestone, a report launched in 2021 as a response to the government End-to-End Rape Review, have revealed several areas that urgently need addressing in the investigations of rape and other sexual offences (RAOSO).

The report has been published as part of the Home Office’s pledge to increase the number of rape cases making it to court.


Key findings from the report include:

  • Officers investigating rape and sexual offences (RAOSO) were lacking in specialist knowledge to sufficently investigate the crimes. RAOSO crimes are complex and lack of knowledge affects the quality and outcome of investigations, the support given to victims and the officers’ confidence to do their role
  • The delivery of Learning and Development across forces was inconsistent with no standard approach
  • Officer burnout and emotional exhaustion were shown to be higher than among NHS staff during the first year of the Covid pandemic ( 64.5% compared to 46.8% in the NHS based on the NHS staff survey)
  • Due to demands and lack of detectives, younger inexperienced officers are being placed into roles investigating highly complex sexual crimes, leading to a reliance on internal police knowledge about what constitutes real rape and assumptions being made about victim credibility

Dr Emma Williams, Director of Research and Strategic Partnerships in the Centre for Police Research and Learning at The Open University, is the research lead for ‘pillar four’ which focused on the areas of Learning and Development and Officer Well-Being.

If the findings in our report are now used to drive transformational change, it will not only benefit the victims of these horrific crimes and improve outcomes for all RAOSO cases, but it could be used to provide evidence based best-practice to give officers the specialist knowledge they need to do their job effectively.

Dr Emma Williams
Director of Research and Strategic Partnerships

Approximately 500 police officers were surveyed across four forces – known as ‘Pathfinder Forces’.

The aim of pillar four was to understand where there were limitations to learning in the field of RAOSO, the extent to which officers were equipped with specialist knowledge, to understand the drivers of welfare issues for RAOSO investigators and to explore the support for the welfare needs of investigators.

Although the findings themselves appear to paint a bleak picture, research found that officers were overwhelmingly committed to doing the best for victims, often prioritising it above their own well-being.

There is also a clear appetite from investigators and police staff in this area to address the gaps, with 90% of officers who responded to the survey stating they would like to participate in learning and development if the opportunities were available.

The research and change programme is unique in policing. It has given teams of academic researchers unprecedented access to police data enabling them to form a holistic, nuanced picture of how forces tackle rape and other sexual offending. Academics will now work alongside police on evidence-based solutions to achieve the transformative change required to improve the police response to rape and sexual offences

The full report can be found online.

This article was originally published on The OU news website; click to read the original article.